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The Globalization Of Traditional Korean Medicine

What is Traditional Korean Medicine?

  • For more than 5,000 years, Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM) has developed as a unique, remarkable traditional medicine which has lived through Korean history since the birth of the nation itself. The Korean government defines that Traditional Korean Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are of different disciplines. The origins of the two fields may be same or similar, but in consideration of the underlying differences in their development, education system, clinical practices and theoretical background, TKM and TCM are regarded as fundamentally different medical field. (The Supreme Court of Korea, 98 Du 11007)

    The Differences between TKM and TCM

  • In the Joseon dynasty, the Korean dynastic kingdom that lasted since 1392 until 1897, the unique Korean medical field has been organized through the publishment of classical texts, such as “한약집성방(Han yak jip seong bang)” and “의방유취(Ui bang yu chui)”. These early works lead to the one of the most representative TKM textbook “동의보감(Dong ui bo gam)” and “동의수세보원(Dong ui su se bo won)” eventually. The main focus of TKM is the relationship between human constitutional characteristics and nature. In that sense, we can say that TKM is human-centered medicine. The academic system of TKM is characterized by placing emphasis on people and their experience. On the other hand, TCM has developed into a different medical trend from TKM. TCM differs from TKM as it is more of a disease-centered medicine that treats diseases according to dialectic values.

    Traditional Korean Medicine Practitioners

  • Intense competition over education in South Korea has fueled the development of the nation to rise to be amongst the top 10 largest economies in the world. Every year, approximately 700,000 students participate in fearsome competition in order to enter a university. In particular, students who wish to become doctors of TKM may be granted admission only if their grades are among the top 1.3% of the entire examinee population. Those excellent students must then complete a minimum of 6 years of arduous, independent and systematic training, learning the deep philosophies and practices of TKM and modern Western Medicine. Upon graduation, the students are qualified to take the national TKM practitioners examination and obtain a license, issued by the Minister of Health and Welfare. After licensure, the TKM practitioner receives further training as a resident doctor at a medical facility, then the practitioner may take the TKM specialist examination and obtain a specialist license. With ongoing effort and education, the practitioner may also graduate from TKM Master and Ph. D. courses, closely resembling the system of modern Western Medicine, In Korea, Traditional Korean Medicine is a prominent, institutionalized medical practice, requiring national licensure. Being recognized as a sophisticated medical practice, Korea's national insurance covers TKM treatment as well as modern Western Medicine treatment. In this manner, TKM's standards of quality and safety are on an entirely different scale than those of simple folk healing methods.

    The Prospects of Traditional Korean Medicine

    According to the current trend of Western Medicine, people are more and more looking for naturopathic way to prevent or cure diseases and find their wellness. Through establishment of a TKM university and promotion of herbal medicine, TKM has been satisfying those needs. However, even though TKM practitioners well understand the value of the natural, traditional way to help patients, they do not dwell on traditional methods only or rule out Western Medicine. On the contrary, they cooperate with medical doctors of Western Medicine in order to combine Western and Eastern Medicine to offer the treatment that utilizes cutting-edge technology and yet still natural at the same time. TKM is in ongoing evolution by the development of specialized treatments for each patient, diagnosis using advanced medical equipment, and offering various types of medicine, including powder, capsule, lotions, ointments, patches, eye drops, etc. TKM is also involved with active research activities in the field of biotechnology to support its effectiveness. In the future, TKM will develop and evolve in harmony with modern science and culture in various ways.

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